Jack Kirby: Hail to the King, 100 years later

Jack Kirby self portrait

Jack Kirby self portrait (enhanced version, adding other characters from the original drawing)

Hail to the King! Aug. 28, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of comic book artist Jack Kirby.

“Comic book artist” actually is an inadequate description. Comic book creator is more like it. His nickname was the “King.” It was deserved.

Kirby lived the stories he drew in his mind. The characters he depicted existed in that fertile imagination. At one point his beloved wife Roz banned Kirby from driving. He was so distracted devising new stories he wasn’t safe behind the wheel.

In the 21st century, much of the output of Marvel Studios wouldn’t be possible without Kirby’s contributions: Captain America (co-created with Joe Simon in 1941), the Avengers (co-created with Stan Lee in 1963), Iron Man (co-created with Lee, Larry Lieber and Don Heck, also ’63), Thor (co-created with Lee and Lieber, ’62), Ant-Man (Lee and Lieber, ’61), the Black Panther (co-created with Lee, 1966). Not to mention the X-Men (co-created with Lee, ’63) that are licensed by 20th Century Fox.

Walt Disney Co. reached an out-of-court settlement with the Kirby family that ensured the company would maintain control. Terms weren’t disclosed but ever since Kirby’s on-screen credit in Marvel-made movies is more prominent.

Still, Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) isn’t as well known among the public as Stan Lee is. Stan was the showman and promoter. Kirby was the workhorse at the drawing board who dreamed up much of the story content. Stan gets cameos in every Marvel movie. Kirby got a cameo in one episode of the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show.

This isn’t intended as a criticism of Stan. For several years in the 1960s, there was a magic every time there was a Stan Lee-Jack Kirby story published by Marvel. It’s just that Kirby deserves more notoriety than he has received.

Kirby has some detractors who note his drawing style wasn’t realistic. In a 2005 documentary, artist Neal Adams said that missed the point.

Paul McCartney and Jack Kirby in 1976

“I don’t think Jack could really draw anatomy,” Adams said. “I don’t think Jack could draw a real car. That wasn’t Jack. He was a visceral animal. (He) drew impressions of things.

“If you sit around with artists and talk about Jack’s anatomy… you would get the artist who was critical. ‘Oh, he doesn’t know how to do anatomy and everything,'” Adams added. “Then you say, ‘But can you do the power that he can do? Can you do it?’ Let’s just say I ask you to do it. Would you know what to do? Wouldn’t you essentially be held back by what you knew?”

Finally, Adams had this thought: “Me as an artist, it overwhelms me to see this gutsy, ballsy thing and in a way say to myself, ‘I can’t do it.'”

No one else could. That’s why Kirby was the King.

To read about the 1976 meeting between Jack Kirby and Paul McCartney, CLICK HERE to read a post from the Jack Kirby Museum website.

To view frequently asked questions about Kirby, prepared by his biographer Mark Evanier, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE (2:45 p.m., Eastern time): Evanier, who once worked as an assistant to Kirby, has his own tribute you can view by CLICKING HERE.

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, sent out a post on Twitter on Monday afternoon.

 

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June Foray, cartoon voice, dies at 99

Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle, one of the many characters voiced by June Foray

June Foray, a cartoon voice for decades, has died at 99, according to an obituary posted by Variety.

Her many credits include Rocky and Bullwinkle, where she voiced Rocky the Flying Squirrel and villain Natasha Fatale.

She was also a voice on Warner Bros. cartoons for characters such as Granny and Witch Hazel. Foray eventually got on-screen credits on those cartoons.

Foray also did “bumpers” for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. telling viewers the show would be return after station identification and to stay tuned for previews of the next week’s episode. One of her bumper recordings was included in a home video release of the series. And she was the voice of Talking Tina, a killer doll in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

June Foray (1917-2017)

“She was, of course, the premier female voice talent of her era,” Mark Evanier, a television and comic book writer wrote of Foray on his blog.

“I don’t know who the runner-up was but whoever it was, she was in a distant second in terms of hours logged voicing cartoons and commercials, dubbing movies, doing narration, appearing on radio shows and records…even providing the voice for talking dolls,” Evanier wrote.

The writer called Foray “a talented workaholic who for decades, drove into Hollywood every weekday early in the morning and went from recording session to recording session until well after dark.”

Foray died less than two months short of what would have been her 100th birthday.

UPDATE: Here’s an excerpt of an interview June Foray did for the Archive of American Television.

Stan Freberg, brilliant satirist, dies

A Stan Freberg album

A Stan Freberg album

Stan Freberg, who wrote and performed satire of the first order for decades, died today at age 88, according to obituaries published by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, USA TODAY and DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD, among other news sites.

Freberg was in demand to do humorous commercials, to voice cartoons and in general to make people laugh. He also has a connection to the 1960s spy craze, although few people will remember for it. Truth be told, Freberg might have preferred to forget it himself.

Freberg was a guest star in The Carpathian Caper Affair of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. To read a detailed review, CLICK HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

Perhaps producer Douglas Benton thought he scored a coup when he signed the great satirist Stan Freburg as a guest star. True, Freburg as Herbert Fummer comes across as amusing and sympathetic. But Benton might have been better off hiring Freberg to write an episode instead. Had that occurred, we would have been spared this insipid mess.

Freberg’s legacy is vast and his U.N.C.L.E. appearance is, at most, a footnote. Here’s an excerpt from from The Hollywood Reporter obit.

The godfather of humorous and irreverent commercials, Freberg lampooned cultural institutions and described himself as a “guerilla satirist.” The New York Times dubbed him the “Che Guevara of advertising,” and years later, “Weird Al” Yankovic called him a major influence on his career.

“Very sad to say that one of my absolute all-time heroes has just passed away,” Yankovic wrote on Twitter. “RIP Stan Freberg. A legend, an inspiration, and a friend.”

Here is just one parody that Freberg wrote in the 1950s, doing a takeoff of Dragnet. Daws Butler, who would later do voices on Hanna-Barbera cartoons, provides many of the voices here:

UPDATE (10:05 p.m.): To read a tribute to Freberg by Mark Evanier, a television and comic book writer who was a friend of Freberg’s, CLICK HERE.